Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When God Says "Go":Voices of the Faithful

A village woman dreams she would find a man by the river who would tell her of God—on the day, and at the moment a missionary happened to be walking there. In another part of the world, a missionary needed new tires for his van, but before he could get them, the vehicle was stolen. A short time later it was recovered, replete with new tires, a radio, and a backseat.

Voices of the Faithful, a compilation by Kim P. Davis of miracles, testimonies, joys, and sorrows brings the reader into communion with the heart of God as lived out through missionaries from around the world. It is a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who are willing to pay the price of obedience and go where God leads.

This daily devotional is arranged around monthly themes such as character, prayer, contentment, etc. Beth Moore introduces each month’s theme, but the daily devotions are from the hearts of missionaries scattered from the Pacific Rim to the jungles of Africa.

Although there are many devotionals available, this one has the added benefit of allowing us to become intimate with the people who are willing to share God’s heart in difficult and unfamiliar places. Perhaps this encounter will trigger a response to commit to one of them in prayer, correspondence, or support, thereby becoming a co-worker from the comfort of our couch.

A copy of Voices of the Faithful was provided to me by Booksneeze.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Jungle Captive and a Great Big God

Have you ever wondered if you’ve pinned your hopes on someone as ephemeral as a childhood fantasy? If the chances of having your prayers answered are as likely as seeing Santa pop out of the fireplace?

A few weeks before Christmas, after six years of captivity in a jungle, Ingrid Betancourt released her hope of ever being set free. Her unanswered prayers settled back on her as she folded herself in her hammock cocoon and let go of the will to live. The proof-of-life letter she had written to her family never reached its destination—or so she thought.

She was unaware that some militia had been captured and the letters released to the press. She was unaware of an army deep in the jungle, rehearing a rescue. And she was unaware God had roused intercessors around the world, including me.

On December 7, 2007, another world and thousands of miles away, a news article caught my attention. I clipped it and stuck it in my Bible. Night after restless from between my sheets, I prayed for a woman who had lost hope.

On December 8, 2007, Ingrid heard about the rescued letters. She wrote, “. . . for the first time in six months I wanted to eat. . . .I had a thirst for life again.”

Six months later, I fired up my computer and read the headlines: Betancourt Freed.

I know I have mentioned this story before, but I just finished read Betancourt’s book, Even Silence Has An End, as well as the one written by the American captives, Out of Captivity. They tell the story of tragedy and hope, of captives and heroes, of a God who hears and answers.

In retrospect, you can see all the people and events God put into place behind the scenes of someone’s prayers—a faithful mother, a persistent rescue force, an intercepted militia, and among other prayer warriors, an unknown woman inspired by a news clipping—just a few of the cast God uses as only He can.

At times, we all need to be reminded that our hope indeed, is on the living God. And even when our natural eyes tell us one thing, we know “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

For those of us rejoicing in the freedom of Christ this Christmas, may we remember someone who is not. Ask, and perhaps the Lord will give you a part in His Christmas cast to bring hope to the captives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Missing Martha

Got sidetracked making a stained glass piece for friends who are building a house on an island in Maine. It felt great to exercise whatever part of my brain that required and to give the wordy part a rest. Hope I didn’t lose you faithful readers in the interim

I’ve been missing my Martha lately—you know, the one who always gets the bad rap for cooking, cleaning, and making up beds while her sister soaks in Jesus—not the one who spent a bit of time behind bars for some messy money business in the midst of her happy-homemaker projects.

It used to be that my Martha could do all the busy stuff, and my Mary still had time to bask in the Lord. But they seem to have parted ways of late.

For example, my Mary is presently sitting here at 6:00 a.m. in her pj’s, listening to Handel’s Messiah, smelling a Balsam candle, and enjoying the lights on the mantle garland. She’s thanking God for peace and beauty. The problem is, Martha’s sitting too, but not before leaving a trail of upheaval behind her.

Before she could sit, she rummaged through boxes in the spare bedroom, looking for something she never found. So, she left that mess and on her way to the kitchen, noticed the plants needed watering. She filled each pot, but the one without the saucer under it leaked all over the floor. Martha wasn’t into mopping at the moment because the microwave beeped that her coffee was hot. So she threw a dish towel down on the stream making its way across the low spots in the tile, and decided to catch up on her blog.

But feeling somewhat distracted and unconnected, she decided to sit awhile with Mary and just let her soul “exalt in the Lord and her spirit in God her Savior. For the Mighty One has done great things for her, and Holy is his name.”

Maybe the floor will be dry by the time she gets up. 

And may you too, have a time today to delight in what is good, and true, and beautiful. As they so openly say here in the South--Have a blessed day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Year with God review

A Year with God by R.P. Nettelhorst is a thoughtful, ambitious and insightful compilation of Old Testament excerpts and explanations. It is arranged categorically: love/hate, hope/fear, mercy/judgment, etc., and can be read in any order. The author uses portions of Scripture (taken from a wide variety of versions) to invite his reader to “Spend a year with God, read his words, and listen to his heart. Love him and know without a doubt that he loves you.”

These readings and reflections would appeal to people who prefer a short, daily, expository-type reflection rather than a personal anecdotal one, typical of the many devotionals on the market. The author stays clear of involving himself in the meditations—so much so, in fact, that there is no mention of him or his background anywhere in the book.

Granted, for the sake of review, I read A Year with God in a month and probably missed some of the applicable inspiration the author intended. However, as much as I appreciated his obvious knowledge, I felt A Year with God lacked the warmth and inspiration I would need in order to stay hunkered down in the Old Testament for a year.

Nevertheless, Nettelhorst is well versed in the Old Testament and is able to present his meditations clearly and simply.

Booksneeze has provided me with the copy of this book for review

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Brilliant, the Blind, and the Believer

On an interview with 60 Minutes last night, genomic pioneer Craig Venter said he didn’t believe in God, because he thinks “the universe is far more wonderful than just assuming it was made by some higher power.”   

Hmm. Random chance explosions are pretty clever. 

But he also admitted, in the same breath, that cells “are software-driven machines and that software is DNA, and that truly the secret of life is writing software is pretty miraculous.” (Italics mine) Perhaps miraculous wasn’t what he meant to say, or perhaps, he simply couldn’t stop himself from using a word typically meant to describe something that transcends the laws of nature, something that often involves a supernatural power or agency.

In either case, I find it mind-boggling that brilliant people like Venter can look at the spectacular wonders of the universe, be they cell or supernova, and put more confidence in some unknown, unseen, and undiscovered natural act rather than in a Creator. Way before the telescope, the naked-eye psalmist couldn’t help but sing, “The heavens declare Thy glory, O God.”

Ever since fourth grade when I received a Wonder Book of the universe, I have been fascinated with space. And so it was with great anticipation that I finally went to the local planetarium for one of its Friday night shows. After viewing Jupiter through the observatory telescope, we entered the science center. Expecting to see walls lined with photos of nebula, or planets, or solar flares, or something celestial, we were astounded to be greeted with displays of Star Wars scenes and science fiction movies. 

Not a NASA photo in sight. Not a lunar landing. Not a bit of wondrous reality.

How are our kids going to know the difference between a Hollywood set and reality? The ensuing light show was equally drab. As if aware of this, the presenter ended the show by treating us to a roller coaster ride through the universe. This consisted of a graphic spiral twirling at a dizzying speed through black space. And all the previously bored kids oohed and ahhed.

My interpretation of the whole experience was that kids weren’t expected to appreciate the marvels of creation for what they are; that they needed to be entertained rather than taught. I say rubbish. We need nothing more to dazzle them with than the truth. And that truth points to the miraculous, even if you are a brilliant, atheistic scientist.

Maybe we all could benefit from a refresher in wonder. How about buying a book of NASA photos for Christmas or bundling up in a lawn chair some night and soaking in the celestial marvel, and wonder, and awe that is intended for our great pleasure of the One who made it.

But now ask the beasts and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind?—Job 12: 7-10

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Don't Mess With Fun--Fly Quantas, Trust God

Have you ever noticed how a situation can actually remain unchanged but seem entirely different in an instant because of an attitude adjustment?

While I was making arrangements for our vacation to NZ years ago, a Quantas rep suggested we take advantage of their "Nipper Tripper" promo and take in a few days in Australia. (nipper referencing kids/family rather than libation!) We began our journey in NY, then flew to LA to catch the midnight flight overseas. By the time we boarded our jet, stuffed our bags, and settled in our seats, we were exhausted, and I suspect, a bit kvetchy.

The Quantas crew, on the other hand, would have none of it. They smiled. They laughed. They brought warm wash cloths, juice and kids' toys as soon as we each settled, not waiting til after the whole jumbo liner was ready. Their attitude was infectious. But what kicked me out of my it's-been-a-long-day complaining was the attendant's exhortation: "Hey, you're all on vacation. This is supposed to be fun!"

A timely word hits its mark. She was absolutely right. We had nothing to whine about but everything to be thankful for. And not only thankful in our minds but in our actions. Instantly, we laughed and entered into the enjoyment of our situation.

I thought about a conversation with an agnostic Hannah Whitall Smith wrote about. He told her the "Christians he knew seemed to be the most uncomfortable people. They carried their religion around as a man carries a headache. He does not want to get rid of his head, but at the same time is uncomfortable to have it."

Often we get in a tizzy striving for more of this, and more of that, and even more of God. We worry we don't know Him, hear Him, aren't going to make right decisions and on and on. We act as if the chances of His answering our prayers are about as good as winning the lottery. I like what Oswald Chambers says about his--"our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence."

Just do it.

After spending three days at the Great Barrier Reef, we caught our morning flight to Sydney where we were to make our connecting flight to NZ. Before we landed, the Quantas attendant asked the following people to meet her at the gate: " the Moston party."  She told us our flight had been canceled, but that Quantas had put us up for the day at the (Hilton, I think it was) and would be flying out that night. "Have a good day." she said with the cheeriness of someone expecting this delay in plans to be viewed as a great bonus.

For a fleeting moment I worried about all our other reservations and plans, but not being able to change a thing, we let go and let Quantas rearrange our vacation. We went to the zoo and saw echidnas, and wombats, and platypuses; we lounged in our luxurious hotel, and we delighted in our good fortune.

Granted, there's a difference between trusting Quantas with my vacation and trusting God with my life. But today, in the daily little things, I can choose to believe that God is able to will, and to work all His good pleasure in my life. And I can choose to act as if I truly believed it by enjoying Him.

P.S. The title refers to our vacation and not to the airlines recent troubles

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Having a Go at it Down Under

We get pretty used to safety measures in the US. Mind you, I am fond of guardrails on sharp curves, seat belts that jam rigid at the slightest sudden stop, and car bells that ding if grandma is about to back over the family cat. (To say nothing about my pride in having a son in Homeland Security, whose card with the shiny badge I keep right behind my driver's license.) But I have discovered such a dependence on things to keep my world secure can actually soften the nerves.

One of the things I enjoy about traveling to another country is the opportunity to see, when all the familiar is removed,  just how much I trust God with my life. We've had the good fortune to visit Australia once and New Zealand twice. (I was going to tell you why I love Quantas airlines, but since they're having a bit of engine trouble presently, I'll wait a day or two.)

 The New Zealanders, in particular, are an adventurous sort. They first convinced the rest of us what fun it was to wrap an elastic around our ankles and get thrown off high places with their bungee-jumping prototype; they roll down hillsides inside padded balls, and scale glaciers. So when we signed up for a plane ride across the 12,000 foot mountain range to get to Milford Sound we expected a bit of an adventure, but when we arrived at the "airport" in the middle of a field, my sense of fun turned to fear. Didn't they know tourists expected something a little more officail looking?

My first concern was that I was taller than the plane. The pilot cheerfully herded all six of us inside, warned us it would be a bit noisy, and cleared the dirt runway. Within minutes, we were skimming glacier-topped mountains as far as the eye could see. I kept one eye glued to the pilot and the other fixed on the potential crash sites. Even though the plane coughed and sputtered , the pilot reamained unpertubed. Gaining confidence in his calm, I finally relaxed and enjoyed the spectacular ride.

I wasn't, however, expecting any adventure when we boarded our "real" airplne for our trip home. We departed from the south island for Aukland in the north where we would catch our overseas flight. In between the two points is the city of Wellington. The flight really wasn't scheduled to land there, but if the weather was good, apparently the pilots accomodated the passengers for Wellington by stopping on the fly-over rather than taking them all the way north and having them backtrack on the regularly scheduled run. A thoughtful gesture.

But the weather was terrible. We were socked in storm clouds which only seemed to quicken our pilot's sense of adventure. He announced in his sporting Kiwi accent,"Ladies and gentlemen, the visibiltiy is quite poor and they are having radar problems at the Wellington airport, but we are going to have a go at it and see what we can do." Bob and I looked at each other in disbelief as the plane banked, revved, and plowed through the dark clouds. After forever, it turned and began to ascend. My relief was short-lived as our undaunted pilot again came over the intercom with the news, "Ladies and gentlemen, as you could see we didn't make it, but we are going to have one more go at it. It may be a bit bumpy, so buckle up."

By now, I'm certain my next adventure will be experiencing my spirit depart from my body to meet the Lord. But after a noble effort, our pilot gave up and headed on. We returned home without incident only to discover we had won a trip back to New Zealand.

What is it about the human spirit that loves a thrill? Fears forgotten, I eagerly got out my travel guides and began to plan our next go at it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perseverence and Apple Pie

Ah, a nip in the air reminds her of apple pie—but after four increasingly frantic attempts at a previously tried and true crust, she left the dog lapping the mess and went in search of Mrs. Pillsbury.


Sometimes you just have to know when let go and move on. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” The question is, just what is that point of knowing the difference between perseverance and obstinacy, of winning or quitting?


As a Christian, I can get my mind in quite a tangle by over-spiritualizing my every move. Saturday’s scenario was simple: company coming for dessert, apples in season, make a pie.


The sun was shining, the music playing. I cheerfully gathered my supplies only to discover there wasn’t a pie pan in the house. Undaunted, I ran down to the local five and dime, purchased a pan and hurried home.


I had two types of flour on hand, one an all-purpose light, the other, an all-purpose unbleached. Not anticipating any problems, I mixed the light flour according to the recipe. The sticky mound clung to the bowl like wet mud. I threw in more flour, but pasty wads twirled around the roller and left gaping holes in the stuff stuck to the board. Thinking maybe it wouldn’t adhere to the smooth surface of the granite countertop, I dumped the mess on it, but my superglue dough clung in defiance.


Deciding the light flour no good, I tried the all-purpose unbleached. This batch sucked up the water and shortening like cement in a mixer.


Now I am frustrated and begin to wonder why, why my very pleasant enterprise is making me feel like throwing balls of pastry at the wall. Maybe the devil doesn’t want me to make a pie because it will bless my company, or conversely, maybe God doesn’t want me to make a pie because they hate pie, or are allergic to apples. Should I persevere and get the victory over the dough, make something else, find a bakery? By this time I’m beginning to wonder why I ever invited people for dessert.


Which brought me back to the important. It’s all about the company, not the pie. Defying the devil, I once again hurried off to the store for the ready-made crust, and heeding God (just in case He actually was warning me), grabbed a bag of berries and an angel food cake.


Several hours later, the mess is cleaned, the puppy walked (because she ate so much spilled flour) the candles lit, and my attitude readjusted.  


“Which would you prefer?” I ask my guests. Ignorant of the drama that preceded this presentation of perfectly mounded pie and the berries and cake, they choose. 


“Both,” they said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How many is a billion?

Probably not a good idea to start with a disclaimer, but being a person who understands words, not numbers, I thought this quite startling. I hope I don't lose any of my 1. foreign, 2. liberal 3. women 4. political followers! I can't give credit to the source because I received it from my accountant. For what it's worth:

The next time you hear a politician use the word 'billion' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending YOUR tax money.

 A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of it's releases.

 A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
 B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
 C.A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
 D.A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
 E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division.
 Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D)  is presently asking Congress for 250 BILLION DOLLARS to rebuild New Orleans.  Interesting number. What does it mean?

A. Well, If you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, and child) You each get $516,528. 
 B. Or... If you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1,329,787.
C. Or... If you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012. 

 Washington, D. C. HELLO! Are all your calculators broken??
 Building Permit Tax, CDL License Tax, Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax ,Dog License Tax, Federal Income Tax (Fed), Federal Unemployment Tax (FU TA), Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Fuel Permit Tax, Gasoline Tax, Hunting License Tax, Inheritance Tax, Inventory Tax, IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax), IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Liquor Tax, Luxury Tax ,Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Property Tax, Real Estate Tax, Service charge taxes, Social Security Tax, Road Usage Tax (Truckers), Sales Tax, Recreational Vehicle Tax, School Tax, State Income Tax, State Unemployment Tax (SUTA), Telephone Federal Excise Tax, Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax, Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax, Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax, Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax, Telephone State and Local Tax, Telephone Usage Charge Tax, Utility Tax, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax

(And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes)

 Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago.....And our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt. We had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened? Can you spell 'POLITICIANS!' 
 And I still have to press '1' for English.  


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Dare (Part Two)

If God had a Fed Ex employer mentality, He’d have fired me long ago for failure to deliver His packages. Gracious God that He is, He has given me yet another look at what a miracle-bearing messenger should do.

A book by Bruce Wilkinson, You Were Born for This, provided some key reminders for a lesson on Miracle-Delivery 101. Dr. Wilkinson contends we were born to be conveyors of God’s love, but that we often fail to do so out of fear or lack of expectation.

This isn’t a book review, but two points that hit home for me were 1. I go about my day without a sense of expectation of seeing God work or of being a part of His purpose. 2. The thought that He might put me in a situation that involves a risk of faith, a situation in which I might have to say or do something I’m unsure of thus incurring someone’s derision, drives a shaft of fear in me reminiscent of a thumb-sucking toddler left with a babysitter for the first time.

I realized my biggest fear is that I would say the wrong thing, or give some terrible advice or be totally inadequate. The point Dr. Wilkinson brought out that triggered a release for me was that It Wasn’t About Me! If God arranged an intersection of my life with someone in need of something from Him, then He would provide it—whether a word of wisdom from my mouth or a twenty dollar bill from my pocket—whatever; He just wants me to be the messenger.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the image of culvert clogged with twigs and debris suddenly swept away allowing the torrent of water to flow through to the other side.
So, I woke up on the second morning of my first major writers conference with the desire to be a miracle-bearer that day. I was giddy with the feeling I was exactly where I was supposed to be in life, and decided to skip the morning sessions and spend time with God. As the morning sun broke the mist that had hung over our retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I remembered there was a prayer garden somewhere out in the woods. I decided to find it (in spite of the warnings about bears).

I followed the signs to a woodland grotto. A plank bridge covered a small stream; shafts of sunlight and songs of birds complemented my spot for a God encounter. I was so full of the nearness of the Lord, I asked him to send someone who needed a touch from Him. But knowing everyone else was at the workshops (where all good students should have been) and seeing the remoteness of the place, I realized my request was unlikely to be answered.
Just as I was about to leave, I saw a woman coming toward me. She was upset. We met on the bridge in the middle of the woods. There was no getting around it; in spite of my feeling of inadequacy God had set up a divine appointment.

We talked, cried, laughed, prayed and parted wiser in the knowledge of the Living One Who Sees Us. I skipped all the way back to the conference center.

I want more of my days to be like that –to be lived in the expectation of being God’s Fed Ex messenger. How about you? Do you dare to believe God wants to use you today to deliver a miracle?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Dare (Part One)

Many of our responses revolve around three sets of three words: I love you; I hate you; I dare you. A fourth set would solve a lot of problems initiated by the previous three: I believe you.

My husband is one of those persons who, with eyes glittering in delight, steps as close to an edge as possible, pushes buttons and flicks switches to see what they do (once shutting our friends' detached garage door as the startled kids scrambled away), and tests warnings to see if they are justified. He likes a dare.

One time when we were snorkeling off the coast of Australia, I watched him dive down and stick his hand in the open mouth of a giant clam. He wanted to see how fast it closed. He kept his fingers that time, but it was when he dared the trigger fish that he almost lost his pointer tip. We bought an outrageously beautiful  picasso trigger fish for our salt water tank. It was a mighty fish, strong and feisty. At night, it popped up a stiff fin on its back and locked itself into a parking place in the rocks. We knew it had powerful jaws and sharp teeth, and preyed on other fish, but Bob wanted to see if it would attack his finger if he dangled it in the tank.

No sooner had his finger broken the surface of the water when the fish surged. We heard the loud snap of its jaws as Bob pulled his hand back milliseconds before it became fish food. Lest you think I'm married to a delayed delinquent, Bob's propensity to take a dare has a positive side: He dares to believe God, and he encourages me to do also.

I've been hanging out with God for quite a while now, certainly long enough to think I believed Him. But long-term relationships can settle into routine expectations, can get tainted with ennui, and lose their fervor. God's been stirring us up lately, nudging us into a deeper level of knowing, daring us to believe He is exactly who He says He is, and that we are exactly who He says we are--His beloved.

Sometimes a book will provide the impetus to jar lose some bit of unbelief and put us back on track. Bruce Wilkinson's You Were Born for This was an inspiration for me to stop worrying about what I wasn't and start believing what God was.

On Friday, I'll share a simple story (do hope I haven't already) of a moment at a writers conference when, inspired by that book's message,  I dared to believe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Southern Snake, Northern Woman”

A recent encounter with a small snake in the pool (I'll leave it to you to decide how I handled it) reminded me of an article I wrote when we first moved here:
The tie-dyed shirt with the starburst centered over my navel was probably the give-away. I wasn’t totally in step with the Movement. Although I wanted to subscribe to the idea women could do whatever men could, in the depths of my being I suspected my weakness. Years later, I shamelessly admitted it. When it came to finding and removing scary things, I’d call my husband, Bob.
When we moved to the South a few years ago, I was particularly nervous about encountering a southern snake. But after several months, the only snake I saw was at the zoo.
Consequently, I was not overly concerned about the notice the Terminix technician left after a routine inspection. I opened it and read: No sign of termite activity. Saw snake enter vent in crawlspace.
The cold blood pulsing through my veins rivaled that of my adversary.
 I considered sending in the intrepid puppy, but I knew if anything happened to her my daughter would be unforgiving. And since I was approaching the age my children would start having a say about my future, I needed to make sure their most recent memories were favorable.
Other snake-hunting tactics seemed equally implausible. I could hardly imagine enticing it with a mouse tied to a string, a glue-pad, or worse, a pronged stick which I’d have to pin around its slithery neck.
 I didn’t even want to open the basement door. No, there was only one option.
Turning to Bob I asked, “What are we going to do?” knowing full well the answer did not include the plural “we.”
Bob looked into the eyes of the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish. Too kind to say, “Who are you kidding?” he heaved a deep sigh and smiled. Although hunting snakes in a crawlspace rated alongside chasing bats out of a bedroom, he squared his shoulders and said, “I’ll go in.”
Eager to help, I stomped around upstairs, but to no avail. Ten minutes later, Bob emerged empty-handed and closed the door.
It’s been several months since we last saw a mouse around here—an observation that fuels the disquieting suspicion that I still have a houseguest. But I refuse to live in fear. Granted, I still squint at corners when I enter a room, but I am becoming a Southern woman who can handle such things.
“Besides,” I tell Bob, “I know what to do now if I see one in the house.”
“What?’ he asks.
“Throw a blanket over it,” I respond smugly.
He is curious. “And then what?”
I smile.
“Call you.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

     The Middle East conflict is ever before us. Peace talks in politics and prayers for the peace of Jerusalem in churches. All one has to do is look at a map and wonder: What but the keeping power of God has enabled 6 million Jews surrounded by 400 million Muslim Arabs to survive?

Book Review by Marcia Moston
     Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright is a timely examination of the ever-present conflict in the Middle East. Wright identifies the root of strife as a centuries-old consequence of Abraham’s decision to take matters into his own hands, thus producing two lines, one set on the elimination of the other.

     Following the course of the conflict from the Patriarchs to modern-day, Wright explains the juxtaposed perspectives of the 400 million Arab Muslims and the six million Jews, both of whom claim their ties to the same land are God-given. Humanly speaking, a resolution seems untenable, but Wright reminds his reader of the intervention of a covenant-keeping God.

     Written in a clear, simple manner, Seeds of Turmoil presents an easily understood journey of conflict from both a historical and spiritual perspective. The author does, at times, drift from his historical explanation to contemporary anecdotes and devotional side trips that I found distracting. He also spends a great deal of time paraphrasing long passages of Scripture that I ended up skimming over because I had already gotten his point.

     All in all, this is an informative examination of the current Middle East conflict as well as a reminder that God is, and always was, in control.
     I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Booksneeze.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Running with troops and scaling walls

Most of us like things to work--our cars, appliances, and especially our bodies. When they don't, we often use their malfunctions as excuses for not making a meeting, doing our homework, or stepping out of our comfy corner of the world.

All my body parts are working today, but when they don't, I have a few people who serve as reminders to press on, to fix my focus beyond myself, and to see possibility in place of problem. I know there are many unsung workers dishing out love to the abandoned and abused all over the world, but today, I'd simply like to celebrate two of them. Perhaps you'd like to check out their ministries or follow their blogs and newsletters.

The village of San Andres Sajcajaba is nestled in the highlands of Guatemala. But getting there is not for the faint-of-heart. When we lived there, it took two heart-stopping hours to drive the last twenty miles. The main street into town is paved with stone, which  is rough and uneven at best.

It was here we first met Tim. He was towing a wagon full of squealing kids behind a three-wheeled motorcycle type of vehicle. Later, when he met us at the door of his house in a wheelchair, I was surprised. My stereotype of a "handicapped" person didn't include a hearty, happy man wheeling around  a remote village bringing love, hope and health to abandoned and starving children.

Watching Tim negotiate the rugged terrain, the difficult living conditions made me aware of how much I took for granted about just getting from point A to point B. Yet Tim never complained, never saw an impossibility. And although he believes the Lord will raise him out of that chair one day, he continues to bring hope and the reality of possibilities to so many of the crippled children he works with.

Tim and his wife, Dena, started two ministries for children: The Home of Life in Guatemala and the Home of Life in Costa Rica. Please check them out at http://.www.homesoflife.org

Meanwhile, I have come across another incredible laborer of love in the Sudan--Michele Perry. She lives amidst the bullets and the broken; she herself, having had tens of operations on her leg and hip. Michele is an artist and a lover of the Lord who is willing to go into the brothels and dark places to put a face on love. Her life proclaims, "Jesus brings beauty out of brokenness."

(I'm going to try to link, but since I have to go public with my simple learning tasks, I will also include the address in case the link doesn't work.) http://theunpavedroad.wordpress.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

The telltale wake

 The news a woman killed a 1,000 pound alligator in a SC lake took a bite out of my enthusiasm to go kayaking. I checked the map to see if there were any connecting waterways linking my lake to that one. But the prospect of a warm day bathed in the round yellow light of September triumphed over fears of reptiles. 

We launched our boats and set off paddling. I automatically chose a point in the distance to set my course by. That was how my father taught us to drive a boat. He would show us a landmark and tell us to line up the bow with it. The he would go sit in the stern with my mother. It didn't seem as if he were paying attention to how we were driving, but whenever we started to zig-zag, he would holler,"Point the bow toward the hill." I'd glance back at the S-curves in the telltale wake trailing behind us.

Some weekends we'd sleep on the boat. On one such outing, I woke early before anyone else. I looked out the cabin window and saw we were drifting toward shore. Believing the anchor had come undone, I sat in the pilot's seat, picked a tree on the horizon, and turned the wheel toward it. The boat kept twisting and turning, as I, the only one awake and able to save the ship, sat at the helm with my face fixed on a point in the distance.

After a while my father woke up. He watched me for a few minutes before informing me that although the drift gave the illusion we were nearing shore, we were still secure at anchor. (Although he was kind not to mention my efforts were futile because the engine was off,my siblings were quick to so.)

The memory of that experience helps me appreciate the imagery in Luke 9:53. Jesus "was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem." He wasn't deterred, dismayed,or diverted. He understood both the the suffering and the glory, and set His face toward His purpose.

I wish I could claim to always know exactly what to do. To be able to say with courage and conviction, God told me thus and thus. The truth is, some days I circle around on anchor, others, I'm buffeted by waves and distractions. And then I hear my father say,"Point your bow to the landmark."

And I realign my course toward the One who is faithful and true, because I want my Father to look at my wake and say, "yet with respect to the promise of God,[she] did not [zig-zag] in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Romans 4:20).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beware the sag in the zip line

 "If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again."--Groucho Marx

My students used to love to sidetrack me into telling one of my stories. As the dreamy look glazed my eyes, and I launched into an animated reverie, they would give each other a grin and cast a furtive eye at the ticking minutes on the classroom clock. I knew what they were doing, but figured there were valuable lessons to be had in life stories as well as in textbooks.

And so,when my friend, Lorie, responded to my post about leaving the rat life behind, with a comment that she could now call me a swinger, I was reminded of the time. . .

We were zip lining through the rain forest. It was the third time I had taken a mission team to work at the Home of Life for children in Costa Rica. Each year, on our day off, the team opted for the canopy tour. We hiked high into the forest, donned helmets and safety harnesses, and whizzed along a cable strung from one tree stand to another. Since I had already done this several times, I was confident that I could hold on with one hand and manage the camcorder with the other to get some live video of the experience.

I waited until we got to the longest stretch of cable. "Keep up your speed," the guide warned. "There's a sag in the middle and if you go too slow, you won't be able to make the rise to the platform. Either you'll have to haul yourself in, or someone will have to go get you."

I stepped off the stand and entrusted my body to the harness. The cable zinged, as I sailed along. But in the attempt to get the camcorder at a better angle, I twisted myself around--just enough to slow down--just before The Sag. As I began the upward slope to the platform, I could hear the dread in the guide's voice as he hollered, "You're not going to make it. Grab the cable so you don't slide back."

Letting the camera hang from my neck, I reached up and started hauling myself, hand over hand, as we had been shown. My friends on the platform twenty or thirty feet away, tried to help reel me in with their calls of encouragement. The guide, who probably didn't want to have to go get me and haul us both in, ordered me on,"Pull, pull."

But the last fifteen feet might as well have been a hundred. I had no more strength. I hung there like a pair of wet pants on a clothesline.

The point is, ah, yes, there is a point. The theme that's running through my mind lately is that God is doing a new thing, not only in my life, but in many of the lives around me. But new things don't usually pop up over night. There is a space between old and new, between then and now, between here and there. And sometimes in that interface between one thing and another, there's a sag. We get stuck. We don't think we can make it to the other side. Our friends' cheers lack the power to pull us in. We don't like hanging there, but can't do anything about it.

Thank God for the One who has been watching us all along, the One with strength enough to rescue, the One who hooks us to His belt, wraps His arms around us and hauls us in. Thank God for the assurance He won't leave us hanging in the sag between here and there.

 If you have any thoughts on new things, old things, or the space in between, join in the conversation.

P.S. Didn't want to poke through all my stored-away pictures for a personal one, so I took the above shot from the web site of Monteverde Canopy Tours.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Car Thief, God Moment

As I snuggled on my couch for my 5:30 a.m. devotions the other day, I was unaware of the person rifling through my car on the other side of the wall. When the car horn beeped, (perhaps at the moment the perpetrator threw away my Mercy Me CD), I leapt up, grabbed a flashlight, and ran to the door.

The car door was open, which I took to mean the thief had fled. Indignantly foolish, I approached the car slowly, aware that I was alone, in my pajamas, and except for my foot-long metal flashlight and yipping pooch, defenseless. Other than some Christian CDs, my favorite soundtrack, O, Brother Where Art Thou? and an ashtray full of change, nothing was missing. I called the police anyway in case there were other incidents in the neighborhood.

As the officer wrote the report, I could see he was weary. It had been a busy night he said. Two armed robberies and two house break-ins. But I suspected there was more to his heavy spirit. By the time he left, I had learned the deeper story, the one that stole his energy and weighed his being.

Being a Miss-I-See-A-Lesson-Everywhere, I settled back down with my coffee and let the excitement of the early morning events roll over me.

Lately I had been doing something I knew I wasn't supposed to be doing. The facility that bordered my property had recently banned pets. But every morning for the past three years, I had walked the dog there. So, I decided to continue--under the cover of darkness, early in the morning around 5:30. Although I didn't expect to encounter anyone in the dark, the possibility of doing so, coupled with a guilty conscience, was beginning to bother me.

Now I knew for sure others were out and about in the dark. I had been oblivious to the danger around me, but the One Who is Merciful had given me both protection and mercy as He taught me a lesson. I resolved to stop being so careless by not locking doors, and to stop endangering both my physical and spiritual well-being by my defiant, forbidden walks.

But there was more than my own personal lesson involved here. As I wrapped up my prayers of thanks, I remembered the officer whose life intersected my own that morning and whose story lodged in my spirit.

Surely the One who protected me knew the one with the difficult job of protecting others. Perhaps the One who hears my prayers had arranged this brief encounter in my driveway so that I could pray for the one who was weary.

O, Lord, may you cause your face to shine upon him who is weary, who feels life has taken a hard turn, who needs to know You who sees, and cares, and holds all things in your hands."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Leaving the rat life behind and swinging from the trees

My husband and I were enjoying the pastoral scene at the bird feeder. Not only were all the regulars present--chipmunks, squirrels, doves, cardinals, and towhees, but also a newcomer. I squinted my eyes as I focused on the furry, hunched up haunches.

"Is that a rat?" I asked. Alarmed that such a nefarious creature was within spitting distance of the house, we debated what to do. Bob worried if he put out a trap, he might catch the chipmunk, which although a nuisance, doesn't have the image problem the rat does.

Putting our hopes in the neighbor's cat, we kept a vigilant eye. Day after day, the rodent took its place with all the other creatures under the feeder. I have to admit, he behaved himself. Not a New York City sewer rat this one. He didn't rush around twitching his nose and gobbling all the food. He obeyed the bird feeder protocol.

"He's forgotten he's a rat," Bob said.

My assessment was far less generous. Regardless of its dining manners, it was still a rat. I wrote trap on my shopping list.

Later that day, I read an article about some other animals that seemed to be having an identity issue. The orangutans in a Dutch zoo had forgotten they were supposed to swing from trees. Apparently their initial  enclosure had been too small for arboreal travel, and so they had gotten used to sitting on the ground. The zoo hired a gymnast to swing from the treetops in hopes of enticing the sedentary primates off their butts and into the trees of their new facility.

Prone to seeing (and stretching) analogies, I considered the implications in my own life. I am only too happy to forget I was once a rat, but now, thanks to the grace of God, I am a new creation. Still, it is easy to settle, to be satisfied with the tidbits I have. In doing so, I begin to forget who I am and what high treetops I am called to live in. I need the examples and encouragement of others to cheer and challenge me on to new heights, as I cheer and challenge those behind me, still sitting on the ground.

The apostle Paul said,  "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."  Phillippians 4:9

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Traffic Jam Ahead

One year my husband, daughter, and I drove from New Jersey to Guatemala. Although I am not a good passenger, I had little problem traveling through the United States, but traveling in Mexico, and especially in Guatemala, raised my adrenaline levels to all-time highs. I never realized how much I had taken bridges and guardrails for granted.

We had to cross several rivers to get to our Mayan village in the highlands. One day we came upon a traffic jam caused by a pickup stalled in the river. Not being the ones stuck, nor being in any particular hurry, we took advantage of the situation to get some pictures of a typical day on the road. After a short delay, the truck recovered and continued across the river; no one worse for wear.

The minor interruption in my journey had not caused me any distress back then, but yesterday as I listened to the news, I wondered how I would have responded had I been in the midst of the 11-day traffic jam in China. There would have been no overhead signs warning me of a delay up ahead, no chance to exit the two-lane road, no bathroom! no blankets, no food, except for what the enterprising villagers provided. Just totally, unexpectedly stuck, with no idea what was ahead or what was behind.

A British couple described how they were happily aglow as they returned from a romantic vacation only to come to a sudden, days-long stop in the thick of the heat, diesel fumes, and irate travelers. In the turn of a minute, everything changed. Their lives and plans caught up in the collective repercussions of an event sixty miles down the road.

Unforeseen traffic jams, floods, catastrophes . . . .

The thing is, I was considering all of this as I was floating in my pool. The contrast between what my body was experiencing and what my mind was thinking stirred up a sense of guilt, which threatened to drown the pleasantry of the moment. Should I be enjoying myself when others are suffering, I wondered.

Then clearly, the very paraphrased lesson from a passage of Scripture (which I'd appreciate if anyone knows where it is) came to mind: No one knows what is ahead. But if I cannot and do not praise and thank God in the good times, how will I have the strength to do it in the bad?

I rolled over, floated on my back, and called to the depths of the deep blue sky.

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Psalm 103:1

Saturday, August 28, 2010

He Knows My Face

 My husband's newly discovered fondness for text messaging got me thinking about forms of communication. Since good communication is vital to a healthy marriage, I wondered how this non-real-time electronic correspondence would affect one of the most powerful means of messaging a woman has--her face.

Researchers of non-verbal communication report that of the thousands of configurations facial muscles are capable of, over three-thousand combinations are understood in every culture. One study claims that 55% of effective communication is done through non-verbal expression.

But then, any woman could have told them that. Being able to convey innumerable messages by an imperceptible adjustment of her eyes is a skill learned at an early age, as my five-year-old granddaughter informed me. She was telling me about her friends at school and mentioned one boy in particular. I asked her what it was about him she liked. 
 "He knows my face," she said. "He knows when I don't want to be bothered, but I let him anyway."  


Although I suspect women are better at sending messages and interpreting facial codes than men, this is a valuable skill for any relationship. When my husband was in the pastorate, he was often tempted (gregarious man that he is) to use examples from our marriage. Usually, I could sit in the front pew with an angelic look pasted to my face and let him know in a timeless second he better switch gears in his story.  

One time, however, we were doing a home group on marriage with several other couples. Hoping his transparency would set the tone for the meetings, Bob closed in a prayer that went something like this: "Lord, I pray for more passion in our marriage." 
He knows my face. In a nanosecond, as every bowed head raised, I sent a message: "You are going to see some passion as soon as everyone leaves!"  

But as it is, Someone Else knows my face as well. In that instance, He deflected the barb of my arrow and redeemed both the situation and my husband. That year for a pastor appreciation gift, the church gave us a weekend at a romantic inn.  

My husband is out of town today. He sent me an electronic greeting and a happy face. I sent him back a text ending with the word kiss. Weak substitute that it is, it will have to do until we see face to face.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

She has warm hands

Although my back-to-school moments with children have long passed, I remember them clearly. My daughter, the only girl, was a Velcro child. She stuck so close to me that we moved as one unit.

I decided she needed to go to pre-school a few mornings a week to ease her into the world beyond my pant legs. Like a hound on a foxhunt, I searched out every program for miles around. I sat in show-and-tell circles, noted any potential five-year-old bullies, and examined lesson plans. Finally, I found the perfect program, made especially so because of the teacher.

Although it was held in a church that we were not members of, and the classes were rapidly filling, the director assured me my daughter would be placed in that particular teacher's class. That first day finally arrived. My daughter donned her backpack, and I donned my brave, happy face. I rolled up her sleeve and planted a lipstick kiss on her arm, so she could look at it if she felt insecure.

As we approached the classroom, the director intercepted me, pointed to another room, and said that would be my daughter's."Oh,no," I protested. "I specifically chose that other teacher. She's the only reason we are here."

 Unmoved, the director said Mrs.First-Choice Teacher's room was full, but that Mrs. X was also a wonderful teacher. Not wanting to throw a parental fit in front of all the nervous little children, I handed my daughter over to Mrs. X and hurried to my car where I promptly burst into tears.

All morning, sure my daughter was in duress, I paced, and cried, and ranted, and raved. "Why, Lord? I spent weeks looking for the perfect place for her and at the last minute it all changed."

Finally, in between my complaints, I realized the story of Joseph was playing in the background of my mind. As I paused to pay attention, I remembered the lesson from Joseph's life. In spite of all the bad that happened to him, things he had no control over and that seemed so unfair, God intended it all for good.

The morning passed. Calmed enough to meet her at her classroom door, I expected to find her anxious and in tears. Instead, a happy child laden with crayon drawings greeted me. "How was it?" I asked.

"Good." she said. "I like my teacher. She has warm hands."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Indigo Inn: Vision and Re-Vision

 Perhaps because I'm old enough to have a history of my own, I've come to appreciate lessons of the past much more than I did from my classroom desk. Last weekend my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Charleston, a city whose cobblestone streets, brick alleyways, and pillared buildings exude the triumphs and tragedies of lives long gone.

We stayed at the Indigo Inn, once an indigo warehouse, now a comfortable lodging place in the heart of the historic district. All the rooms wrap around an interior courtyard of lush vegetation and splashing fountains. I wondered how the layout had ever lent itself to being a warehouse.

Turns out the vision of an 18th century woman became the re-vision of a 20th century one.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a 16-year-old colonial woman, took over the management of her father's plantations. She experimented with indigo, and in spite of many failed attempts, persevered and went on to become a successful business woman credited with developing indigo as one of South Carolina's major cash crops.Years after her death, a warehouse built to store indigo attested to the longevity of her vision.

According to Brian, our innkeeper, thirty years ago his parents bought the old warehouse. One website suggests that Frankie, his mother, had  a lot to do with the inn's present condition. Not having interviewed her, I can only speculate how she might have convinced her husband. Nothing to it. Just take off the roof, carve out the middle, plant a courtyard full of trees and shrubs, section out some rooms around the perimeter, and hang out the sign.

As I hunkered down with my breakfast plate on one of the couches tucked amidst the foliage, I saluted the woman who, instead of tacking a "historical building" sign on an edifice which no longer functioned in its original purpose, persevered through a new possibility. And if the full house on the weekend we stayed was any indication, her re-vision had paid off.

Sometimes I've tended to think of revision with dread, when, in fact, its meaning--to see anew-- is a positive action. It sees the exact word in place of the elusive one. It sees possibilities in place of problems. And it sees tourists chatting around platters of wine and cheese in place of bricks of indigo.

May I have the courage and perseverance to see any defunct warehouses in my life through the eyes of Holy Spirit Re-Vision. (And may my husband agree!)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cannibals, Tourists, and the name of Jesus

Several years ago while vacationing in New Zealand, we arrived in the seaside town of Napier. Seeing a large crowd gathered at a dock, we parked our car and joined the throng who were looking at a large (as in 115 feet) Maori war canoe.

Suddenly the crowd surged forward. A man standing next to me asked if we would like to go for a ride, and before I had time to assess the fact his shirtless body was marked with paint, we climbed onboard.

It wasn't until we cast off that I realized a) there were well over 100 people onboard, 80 of whom were bare-chested, war-painted oarsmen, 40 to a side, b) we were headed into the Pacific and there was nary a life jacket in sight, c) we were the only touristy, white-skined people --a fact made all the more unnerving when the hefty warrior next me grinned as he asked, "Did you know up until a few years ago we were cannibals?"

In unison our tattooed warriors roared out a chant and raised their pointed, white-tipped oars in the air, and then plunged them into the water. The leader banged out the cadence for his oarsmen and we set off. Our wide-eyed, six-year-old daughter turned to me and said,"Get me out of here."

The cliches fit: steel cold fear paralyzed me. What had we gotten into?

Just then a man stood, thrust his sleepy, drippy-nose baby into my husband's lap, and banged out a safe-journey prayer--in English--in the name of Jesus.

In an instant everything changed. Fears fled. We were going to live! Salt spray flicked off my face as I noted the happy crowd. It was a beautiful day, and we were having an adventure I could now enjoy because of assurance in that name.

Never had a name sounded so good, so safe, so comforting. Jesus. The name that bears the power of the Almighty to grant safe journeys, deliver from evil, and make cannibals brothers.

P.S. Turns out it was a ceremonial replica touring the country for its 150 year anniversary.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Can't keep a hubcap on

 Not being blessed with a very developed sense of humor, I have to work to cultivate one, so I usually laugh on Saturday mornings between 10:00-11:00. 

That's when Click and Clack the Tappet brothers analyze their callers' car problems with a wit and wisdom that makes even the most dire of mechanical failures hilarious. I'm trying to get up my nerve to call them with an observation I made while living in the North and which has continued to prove true even here in the South.

So, I digress from my usual efforts to edify or inspire and instead share with you my inexplicable observation. Perhaps someone has a suggestion, or perhaps you too, will begin observing this phenomena, which at the very least makes for harmless entertainment while driving.

Simply put: green sedans lose their hubcaps more than any other color vehicle. Don't go away--it's true. I challenge you to start looking. 

I first noticed this shortly after we gave our college-bound daughter our green Subaru. Every time she came to visit, it was missing a hubcap. A car's visual appeal is immediately lowered by one naked black tire and exposed lug nuts, so much so, that our daughter, who would much prefer clothing, asked for hubcaps for Christmas. By spring, one was missing. Suspecting she was running over a lot of curbs, I lectured her on her driving habits.

One day, I pulled into a parking space behind a green sedan--with a missing hubcap--stuffed full with pillows, crates and other items indicative of a move. My immediate reaction was, "Oh no! She's moving back home already."  

Although it wasn't her, it got me noticing the high number of green sedans that were missing hubcaps. My degree in sociology fails me in my efforts to explain this. People who drive green cars usually inherit them, thus don't care as much? People who buy green cars are earthy types and drive in rough places? Green paint repels hubcaps?

There is some benefit to this seemingly mindless diversion. Studies show that that an idling brain actually is doing deeply creative work...so if you're stuck on a problem or have writer's block, maybe you should take a drive.

And If you see a green sedan missing its covers, let me know!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lightning Stirkes and a Merry Heart

  Why I remember light travels at 186,000 miles per second and that there are 5,280 feet in a mile, I have no idea. I'm sure the teacher who drilled those facts must have taught me something else as well. Really, it's not like the knowledge of the speed of light is particularly useful on a daily basis, but I do remember it during thunderstorms.

As a kid, we used to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder, but I don't remember if we knew to divide the total by five, which would make a bit of a difference. I might have spent my childhood thinking a five second space meant the storm was five miles away when, in fact, it was right on top of me.

Last night we had a ripping thunderstorm. Since the pool is close to the kitchen patio doors, I was counting the seconds from the lightning, and trying to not forget the mahi-mahi in the broiler, and thinking about an acquaintance with breast cancer, and listening to the news about drug thugs taking over a previously prosperous town in Mexico...it was all very worrisome.

But then, I caught the end of a news story that made me stop and cheer for a little town whose name I didn't catch. This town, like many others these days, had no money for recreation projects. But the people made a decision not to let recession and depression steal the joy of their children's childhood. Deeming summer memories of swimming, and splashing, and laughing important to the well being of their children, they raised the $12,000 needed to run the pool.

Good for them, I thought. I'm sure they had plenty of pressing needs, but they chose something immeasurable.

A merry heart does good like medicine the author of Proverbs tells us. I may not have much money, but there are lots of inexpensive ways I can do something to lighten my spirit--take time out for beauty, do something different or differently, read a humorous story, call someone and cheer them. Such little things are not life-changing but they just might be enough to change my perspective for the day and knock me out of a rut.

Lord, today,may someone needing the healing of a merry heart be blessed by a gift of laughter.

P.S. Perhaps too trivial for a laugh, but--Reuters has some silly news stories, like the girl who took her car for an oil change. The mechanic found bags of drugs under the hood and called the police. She told them she didn't know the mechanic had to look under the hood. (Okay, maybe not)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The nautilus and the sea urchin

Like a heat-seeking missile, I was determined to find a nautilus shell like the one I saw on the postcard in my hotel lobby. It was early morning. I was trying to sneak out the room without waking my husband. But he turned, blinked a few times and asked,"Where are you going?" We were, after all, on vacation, which to his mind meant rest.

"The tide's out," I said. "I have to get on the beach early to find a nautilus shell.

Sport that he is, hubby sighed, rolled out of bed, and donned his sweatshirt and shorts. We joined the other early-morning seekers along the vast stretch of beach famous for its shells. The birds vied for low-tide pickings; the gentle lapping of the retreating water and the misty salt air added the ambiance for a seashell hunt.

I set out briskly, certain I would find the one shell I had in mind. Bob soon lagged behind, stopping every few minutes to examine something which he either discarded or added to his bag. I walked faster, ignoring the piles of shells and shiny objects on the shoreline. Bob stopped, examined, enjoyed. After an hour or so we met up and compared treasures. I had nothing. Bob had a bag full of perfectly formed, shiny, spikey, curly, pearly treasures.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a shell store where I learned my nautilus didn't even live in those waters. They were just props on a postcard.

I had been so focused on the big treasure that I had overlooked all the little beauties along the way.
Today, may I have the eyes to see, the faith to believe, and the heart to be thankful for what I have today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

She's got "the depression"

My sister called to say her Wii Fit was asking for me. Said it hadn't seen me in a while. Maybe that's because the last time I got on, it groaned, "Oh," and said I had a fitness age of about eighty. Jan also wanted to know where my blog post was.

I admitted last week I had a case of the D's--discouragement, despair, disillusionment, doubt, diets, death...Well, I wasn't that bad; mostly I had "the discouragement" (a term borrowed from an elderly, perfectly coiffed woman I met at the dentist office who said her sister had "the depression"). 

It came out of nowhere, a simple remark by a person whose opinion I valued. I determined to persevere through the fog of mental ennui that settled on me and sucked my thoughts out. But as so often happens, one bad thing led to another.

The corner of my front tooth broke (maybe grit your teeth and buckle up isn't such good advice). It wasn't too noticeable so I decided to postpone fixing it until I had caught up on my bills. A few nights later, after I brushed, flossed, spit, and rinsed, I looked in the mirror and stared at the big space where the corner of my other front tooth had been a minute before.

It's hard to ignore two broken front teeth, besides, my daughter was coming to visit with a friend she wanted us to meet. Not wanting to look as if I'd left my shotgun in a cabin back in the 'holler,' I promptly called my dentist.

"The discouragement" was gaining on two fronts--mental and physical. Early one morning, I curled up on the couch with my Bible. A verse, so random and so seemingly unrelated to my situation, parked itself like a mighty boulder in front of my broken-down defense.

The exiled Jews were rebuilding their destroyed temple, but their adversaries were trying to stop them. The adversaries tattled to the king who was unaware of a decree issued by a previous king, which gave the Jews both permission and provision to build. The current king issued a search in the archives where the treasures were stored and there in a fortress, a scroll was found.--Ezra 6:2

I'm not sure why this knocked the dis off and left me with courage. I think because it speaks of hope, of unexpected possibilities, of things never filed away and forgotten by the KING.